What’s that whining noise?

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Creationists often pretend that getting criticism that points out their ideas are completely invalid is a validation. It's enough that they can get a scientist into a debate; even if they are hopelessly outclassed, babble and lie and treat a scientific debate as if it were a tent revival, they will afterwards strut and preen and pretend that their participation alone makes them a legitimate member of the scientific community. Dawkins made this point in his essay, "Why I won't debate creationists",

Sometime in the 1980s when I was on a visit to the United States, a television station wanted to stage a debate between me and a prominent creationist called, I think, Duane P Gish. I telephoned Stephen Gould for advice. He was friendly and decisive: "Don't do it." The point is not, he said, whether or not you would "win" the debate. Winning is not what the creationists realistically aspire to. For them, it is sufficient that the debate happens at all. They need the publicity. We don't. To the gullible public that is their natural constituency, it is enough that their man is seen sharing a platform with a real scientist. "There must be something in creationism, or Dr. So-and-So would not have agreed to debate it on equal terms." Inevitably, when you turn down the invitation, you will be accused of cowardice or of inability to defend your own beliefs. But that is better than supplying the creationists with what they crave: the oxygen of respectability in the world of real science.

Well, now Francis Beckwith has now fallen squarely into that good ol' creationist tradition of crowing triumph where there is none.

Contine reading "What's that whining noise?" (on Pharyngula)

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Good post today at Panda's Thumb / Pharyngula about the merits of debating creationists :Creationists often pretend that getting criticism that points out their ideas are completely invalid is a validation. It's enough that they can get a scientist int... Read More

What’s that whining noise? PZ Myers posted Entry 73 on March 30, 2004 06:23 AM. Trackback URL: http://degas.fdisk.net/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/72 Creationists often... Read More


I used to think the creationist-propagandists were merely misguided until I met one. Now I conclude (in the absence of strong evidence to the contrary) that they are deliberate frauds.

Consider the case of Andrew Snelling, who gives new meaning to the term two-faced. He’s both a professional geologist, old earth and all, and a young-earth Flood Geologist(!)

Or consider the case of Jonathan Wells, who claimed in Icons of Evolution that he became skeptical of evolution in graduate school, but who also claimed to his fellow Moonies that he entered graduate school in order to destroy Darwinism from within. His church is known for disguising its identity with numerous front groups – and for having a doctrine of “heavenly deception”. So could Jonathan Wells be doing some of that?

Scientists have a hard time dealing with Creationists because they aren’t used to taking into account the likelihood of fraud. Nature isn’t trying to fool anybody. Hence the helplessness of the innocents when suddenly confronted with the miracle of unscrupulousness.

I knew a computer science grad student at Carnegie-Mellon who devised a brilliant poker playing program that could beat all comers. It took the local profs a very long time to realize that the machine systematically cheated.

It’s the same with investigations of parapsychology. There are scientists who have made complete fools of themselves in that field. One of the saddest examples was a quite distinguished British physicist, whose name I have completely blocked, who was taken for a ride a couple of decades ago by children who could purportedly bend metal slips enclosed in glass tubes. Of course, when they thought they were unobserved the children were surreptitiously opening the tubes, bending the metal by main force, reinserting the bent metal in the tubes, and then triumphantly presenting them to the “investigator.” As I recall, equally surreptitious observation of the children by some dour doubting Thomas caught them at it.

I’m going to have to hunt that up again. It may be instructive.


“Although the intelligent design movement (IDM) is small, certain recent events seem to signal its growing importance, though the verdict is still out: the controversy over the Harvard Law Review book note of my monograph, the creation (pardon the pun) of a blog by a group of serious scientists who disagree with ID, the publication of Creationism’s Trojan Horse (Oxford University Press, 2004), God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory (Oxford University Press, 2004), and Why Intelligent Design Fails (Rutgers University Press, 2004) (three books critical of ID) as well as the publication of the book edited by two ID advocates (which includes opposing views as well), Darwin, Design, and Public Education (Michigan State University Press, 2003) and the forthcoming book edited by Michael Ruse (ID opponent) and William A. Dembski (ID proponent), Debating Design: From DNA to Darwin (Cambridge University Press, 2004).”

Although the number of criminals in the United States is still small, certain recent events seem to signal its importance: The growing number of prisons, increased attention to criminals from state and federal governments and increased length of sentences.

Crossposting this with Pharyngula…

Another of Beckwith’s claims deserves scrutiny:

Nevertheless, the deeper questions that ID raises about what counts as knowledge, what is the nature of science, whether one can demarcate between science and non-science, and whether such a demarcation carries any epistemological freight are all worth the price of admission.

Unfortunately, ID advocates did not “raise” these questions. They have been hotly debated by philosophers of science for the last several decades, and by other philosophers for many centuries prior. As with biology, ID has had absolutely nothing useful to add here. The questions they bring up are not new, and the answers they give are predicatably tailored to whatever serves their immediate rhetorical purposes, even when it flatly contradicts what they’ve said elsewhere.

The ID movement is forced to argue over basic epistemology and demarcation for the simple reason that it totally lacks any empirical content, research program, or testable models. When it gets pointed out that ID fails to be science as scientists understand it, they go running to philosophy. That’s as good a sign as any that the critics are right. A good scientific theory should have no need to redefine what counts as knowledge; it should be convincing (or not) merely by the weight of the evidence.

That leaves ID no better off than any other crackpot nonsense, whose advocates could make an equally strong defense of their ideas by appealing to epistemological relativism. I think it’s rather unfortunate that Beckwith sees this as a positive sign.

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on March 30, 2004 6:23 AM.

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